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OverwhelmedLiterature, Aesthetics, and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution$
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Maurice S. Lee

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691192925

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691192925.001.0001

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(p.108) Chapter Three Counting

Maurice S. Lee

Princeton University Press

This chapter talks about penetration of quantification into literary discourse. Lovers of literature could resist information and wax nostalgic for the deserted island reading of their youths, but adventure novels of the long nineteenth century show how “the accounting of literature” could also be aesthetically enchanting. British and American adventure novels from the period register a productive tension: guided by atavistic, preindustrial texts, characters flee from civilized realms marked by information overload only to impose informational modernity on the deserted islands and lost worlds they find. The chapter also explores the limits and wonders of quantification by using a sustained multiscalar approach—a close reading of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, a literary-historical argument that draws on a dozen transatlantic adventure fictions, and a distant reading project based on keyword frequencies in a corpus of 105 adventure novels. The chapter does not only explain how nineteenth-century literature accommodated the rise of information but also the prospect that the digital humanities might begin to tell a deeper history of itself.

Keywords:   literary discourse, deserted island, adventure, lost world, multiscalar, Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, transatlantic

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